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National Conference: Tony Dungy on fun, fundamentals and family

Tony Dungy has the rare distinction of earning a Super Bowl ring as a player and as a coach.

But when Dungy thinks back on his experience with the sport, it’s his youth football coach, Richard Holmes, who had the biggest role in his life. The lessons Dungy learned from Holmes lasted a lifetime, helping him achieve in football and beyond.

“He (Holmes) helped me blossom into the person I am today,” Dungy said. “The seed was always there. The seed was my love for the game, but he was the gardener who took it and watered it, cultivated it and made it grow. I owe him a lot.”

Dungy was a keynote speaker during the 2015 USA Football National Conference in Indianapolis. Through Holmes, Dungy learned early on that football didn’t define his life. Football was about having fun and learning the fundamentals.

“There are four things you should always remember as a coach,” Dungy said. “If you make them better players, you make them better men. Teach life lessons. Set an example. And always remember it’s still a game, remember the first three letters of fundamentals.”

Dungy played in the NFL as a safety from 1977-80, competing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants. After his playing career, he embarked on a coaching career that lasted until 2008, becoming the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl in 2007.

“Now, some of you might want to trade places with me and say, ‘Hey, boy, you’ve coached guys like Merril Hoge, coached Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison here in Indianapolis and they’re going to be in the Hall of Fame at some point,” Dungy said. “You might think, ‘I would love to trade places with him and be able to coach some of those great players.’ But really, if anything, I’d love to trade places with you.”

For Dungy youth football is all about fun, fundamentals and family. When Dungy played and coached with Chuck Noll of the Steelers, the Hall of Fame head coach stressed that football was not the players’ lives, it was their profession. “He always taught me to not let the game consume me,”

One thing that Noll did that stuck with Dungy throughout his coaching career was family Saturdays. Noll involved the players’ families on and off the field and he would have the players and coaches’ families come to practice every Saturday and join in on the field.

As head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Colts, Dungy brought family Saturdays with him. He recalled how current Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning wasn’t the biggest fan.

“Manning is a perfectionist and with all the little kids running around, he didn’t like it,” Dungy said. “At the time, he didn’t have kids of his own.”

“After he went to the Broncos and I became an (NFL) analyst, I went to Denver for a pregame interview. What did I see on the Saturday before game day? All the little kids running around the practice field, including Peyton’s twins, Marshall and Mosley,” Dungy said. “Peyton had gone to John Fox, the head coach of the Broncos at the time, and said they needed to start having family Saturdays.”

Coaches become father figures in young players’ lives, whether they want to or not. Dungy would often give his son, Eric, advice such as, “You can’t eat Fruit Loops all the time,” and “Don’t be late for practice,” but he never listened.

When Eric got to high school and a coach told him to eat more nutritious, he listened. When Eric signed with the University of Oregon as a wide receiver, he would tell his dad how his former coach, Chip Kelly, was a stickler for being on time. He had a big sign on the door about not being late, and Eric relayed this to his father.

Dungy couldn’t help but laugh, telling his son to ask his coach where he got the quote from. Sure enough, the quote was straight out of one of Dungy’s books.

Still, Dungy the father understands, which is why it’s important for the message to be reinforced by multiple sources.

“You have to teach them about doing good on and off the field,” Dungy said. “They need to learn to do right. Whether it’s not getting a driving ticket or not being late to practice.”

 

by: USA Football – Sara Perez

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